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Customer Review

33 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The altruism equation: Free or not free., November 17, 2010
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This review is from: The Box (DVD)
THE BOX is a masterpiece of ethical and moral dilemma masquerading as an ominous sci-fi suspense thriller. It may seem obscure and incomprehensible, but it's essentially just a story about the Golden Rule: What we do to others we do to ourselves.
The story is taken form an ironic little gem of a story by Richard Matheson (of TWILIGHT ZONE fame) called "Button, Button." The movie expands it into a Gordian Knot of obscure, seemingly unrelated events that inevitably, well... you'll see.
The central theme is altruism, which is basically the practical application of the Golden Rule (you know, do unto others as you would have them do unto you). The basic equation is that if enough people choose selfishness, eventually no one will be left. Yet I'm amazed by all the diverse interpretations and reviews, especially since the substance of the story is clearly stated at one point as the "altruism coefficient," that is, unless people learn to be altruistic they will either destroy each other or be destroyed by the mysterious extraterrestrials. A not uncommon sci-fi theme, but presented here as a brilliantly enigmatic and ominous fable that is never boring, but rather, perplexing and mesmerizing. It may have been more popular as a dark comedy, but then it would have lost much of its impact.
Unfortunately however, when a story is presented as enigmatically as this, people tend to see what they want to see, like the reviewer who totally misinterpreted it as a "scathing attack on altruism," quoting Ayn Rand's absurd, distorted definition of it. (Ayn Rand, the master of rationalization of the selfish and self-serving, nursed a lifelong disdain of altruism and empathy. Her books rationalize and justify selfishness, opportunism and exploitation, and still inspire those who exalt such traits.) But this movie is in fact a scathing indictment of selfishness.
Self-sacrifice and selflessness have been the most powerful themes in all of literature and art, including the ultimate story of self-sacrifice, that of Christ (though you'd hardly guess it judging by today's Christians).
Selfishness, on the other hand, is the primary characteristic of evil.
The quote by John Paul Sartre near the end of the movie sums it up beautifully.
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Tracked by 2 customers

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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 2, 2010 10:14:20 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 2, 2010 10:20:24 PM PST
phoongdan says:
Your review is good, the film however not so good. If the point of the film as you say is to teach altruism, how are the aliens teaching altruism to the humans by having them kill each other? If no one who has undergone the experiments is allowed to "warn" another test subject not to push the button because of the consequences then how would anyone learn that they should choose altruism? You see here is the real problem with the movie, the obvious plot holes and it just doesn't make sense if you look at the story closely. Though I understand and I think everyone understands your point about the "golden rule" and on the surface that is what this film is portraying yet that is so simplistic and shallow and doesn't need to be a 2-hour film.

If everyone didn't push the button, we'd all be in good shape. Of course, but then why have the other odd consequences for those that do push the button? What results are these alien experiments hoping to accomplish? These questions simply aren't answered in the film. On the commentary at one point the director says the aliens are conducting experiments to see if humans are worthy of continuing or if they will simply be wiped-off Earth. Yet later in the commentary he says that the aliens offer salvation to the spouses that are killed, insinuating that it is better after death. That right there doesn't make any sense. If the aliens are capable of offering salvation to the humans that is superior to the human experience then why conduct experiments to see if humans are altruistic?

Rather than raising interesting philosophical questions the film just had huge plot holes, inconsistencies and contradicts itself. But I thought it was suspenseful so I gave it 3-stars.

Posted on Apr 24, 2013 9:47:02 PM PDT
EliteLamo says:
very fine review. I'm in a cornucopia of thoughts and emotions with this. I am very glad I watched it at home, alone with no distractions. I have to watch it multiple times to really appreciate its majesty and message.

Posted on May 29, 2013 10:03:35 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on May 30, 2013 12:02:00 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on May 29, 2013 10:19:09 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on May 30, 2013 12:03:12 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on May 29, 2013 10:40:36 PM PDT
EliteLamo says:
ughhh a tool bringing god or men made religion into this....ughhh

Posted on Jun 9, 2014 8:36:47 PM PDT
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on Dec 27, 2015 6:48:32 PM PST
Elijah says:
This review is the main reason why I am going to rent the movie now. Thanks.
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Location: Eugene, OR

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